Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Third down may tell the story of the Ravens-Texans game in Houston on Sunday.
The Ravens are the NFL's top third-down defense, allowing conversions just 30.2 percent of the time.
The Texans are the NFL's top third-down offense, converting 48.1 percent of the time.
Here's what Gary Kubiak told Houston reporters today about the third-down matchup.
On why the Ravens are so good on third down conversions:
Gary Kubiak: Yeah, well, they are just a great defensive team. Normally as a coach, you watch cut-ups during the week. Cut-ups are made up of their last four football games. To give you an idea, in the last four football games there's been 53 third downs against them and only 19 have been less than eight yards. So, that tells you what kind of defense they're playing. There's two goal-line snaps against them. So, there's not a lot of film to study is what I'm trying to tell you. But they've been exceptional and they're right there neck and neck with Pittsburgh at No. 1 this year. But that's what their organization has stood for for a long time. They play great defense and 52 [Ray Lewis] leads the group.
On the Texans being number one on third down conversions on offense:
GK: Well, we're going to have to be pretty good this weekend to stay on the field. But I think the key will be, you get anything over eight, as I just talked about, and you're going to be in trouble against this group. So, we're going to have to keep them manageable.
Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan sounds like he's looking forward to the matchup.
"They lead the NFL on third down and on first down, so they're definitely an effective group," he said. "But again, we think we are, too, so we'll see."
Yes, the Texans are No. 1 on first down, too, with an average gain of 6.11 yards. You'd figure those great numbers on first and third down would yield better results than a 3-5 record.
But we haven't touched on the key defensive numbers that offset much of the good stuff on offense: Houston is 27th in third-down defense (43.2 percent) and has given up a touchdown 90.5 percent of the time a team has moved inside its 20-yard line.